Implementing a national-level biobank in minimal timescales

Implementing a national-level biobank in minimal timescales


Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH) is one of the largest acute teaching trusts in the UK.

NUH set up the Nottingham Health Science Biobank as a large scale biobank holding high quality tissues to support pioneering research. Key to the programme was a sophisticated biobank management system to realise objectives, implement best practice and ensuring HTA compliance.

ISL carried out user-training with NUH, while ICT commissioned the servers. ISL also carried out all ETL (Extract-Translate-Load) work, initial configuration, and implementation in time for a successful go-live.

The NUHT biobank team then went through a full HTA audit within three days of go-live and received a glowing HTA assessment.

The value of improved Data Quality

Researchers can now search for tissue samples from specific cohorts of donors, filtering by the level of consent given by the donors, allowing them to search for tissues that have not opted out of specific elements of research. This level of capability allows the Biobank team to service very specialist research request, significantly increasing the value of the biobank as a whole.

Automation and Integration

Automated sample processing is used alongside automated barcode scanning equipment and pre-labelled sample vials, allowing sample records and their associated data to be automatically generated in the lab, reducing human data entry and the time that the tissues spend at room temperature to the bare minimum, and increasing data quality.

Once processed, tissues are placed into pre-barcoded containers, scanned in batches and placed immediately into freezers, keeping tissue quality at the absolute maximum. This benefits tissue quality and value, simplifies and standardises lab processing and minimises training non-compliance.

A growing Commercial Biobank

Since go-live the Achiever system has evolved rapidly in response to NUH’s requirements based on the actual experience of users. The system creates all sample records, generates reference numbers, prints barcode labels and decides where the samples will be placed in the freezers, maximising storage efficiency and minimising human error.

Research Impact

The project approach allowed a very fast implementation and for NUH configurations to be very focussed to deliver real benefits to users, rather than for the team to have to plan and design the system and operating procedures in advance.

Since go-live the Nottingham Health Science Biobank team has rapidly built its tissue holdings to over 112,000 samples from nearly 18,000 donors. Using optimised lab processes supporting the very best tissue quality the team has been able to process nearly 100 samples per day, all with extensive auditing maintaining HTA compliance and maximising tissue quality by minimising time to freezer.

Human typed data is minimised by automating the creation of standard tissue groups and the confirmation of the quantities of each type of tissue collected.

The quality of the donor, consent, storage and tissue viability data massively increases the value of the tissues to researchers.

System Evolution

NUH has a clear vision to evolve the system and the lab processes around it. Extra diagnosis and disease event fields have been added to allow greater profiling data and increase the research value of the tissues held.

Integration has been extended in several ways including a link with the Hospital Management System used in the clinic (via HL-7), allowing patient demographic data to be sent to Achiever automatically, facilitating the arrangement of further study involvement, re-consenting and follow-up visits.

A further major project is the commissioning of a second server on the Nottingham University campus with one-way partial synchronisation, allowing the available biobank holdings to be browsed easily by collaborators from anywhere on the university campuses or by external collaborators. The teams at Nottingham University can also use Achiever for their own local projects.